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We have a daily feeding routine that roughly goes like this:

Load up grain and drive to the pasture.

Set feed pans on the back of the pickup and open the gate, making sure not to let the whole herd out – just our two old sweeties.

Hand out treats to the Herd of Oldsters who glue themselves to the fence line, so we can’t help but see them. I sing and talk and stroke noses (not mine.) For the record, Rick doesn’t sing to the horses, but on occasion he’s been known to talk to them.

Brush Bud and Pepper while they snarf down their medicine-laced grain.

Move to the dessert bar and dispense hay cubes and/or horse candy to our sweeties.

Lead them back through the gate.

Repeat the next day.

And the next.

Bud and Pepper have this routine down cold. They know it better than we do. Most days when we pull up, they’re standing at the gate, waiting for us. I wonder exactly what time they mosey to that part of the pasture. How long do they actually stand there waiting for us? And what do they do on those rare occasions when we don’t come out to feed? I worry about that, but they don’t hold it against us.

Forgiving animals – our horses.

Last year I set up the dessert bar because I had to move the snacks out of Miss Pepper’s line of vision. She was having trouble concentrating on her grain. All she was interested in was nosing into the bucket of snacks and stuffing her mouth with hay cubes. I assured her I could relate, but nonetheless, she had to finish her dinner before she could have dessert.

I had a lot of practice being a mother. Can you tell?

So now, our horses know that when their grain pans are empty, they’re allowed to move to the dessert bar for, well, dessert.

It’s a seamless transition.

Other horse owners watch us and shake their heads. I’m not sure it’s awe or embarrassment.

We do let our sweeties get away with behavior other folks would probably not tolerate. We figure they’re retired and have earned the right to be pampered.

And if others don’t agree-to each their own.

On many days Bud and Pepper put themselves back into the pasture, though they need us to help with the latch. They know the drill.

Smart animals – our horses. 

They’ve trained us well!

Chickadee hasn’t been with the Herd of Oldsters for a while. She sometimes does this, so I wasn’t worried at first. She’ll spend time with others in the larger herd, and then rejoin the Oldsters. She fits right into both herds. I think it may be due to her docile nature. Chickadee is one of the sweetest horses I’ve ever met.

But after a few days of not seeing her, I decided to track her down. I’d had one bad experience with Baby being snatched from the herd with no warning, and I didn’t want another.

My emotions couldn’t take it.

And I suspect, neither could yours.

I found her in a stall in the barn. She’s had an eye infection before and I guess it flared up again. She’s being kept out of the wind and dust and hopefully with the help of the vet and medication, the infection is healing.

At the moment, Chickadee looks like one sad girl. She’s lonely in the barn. She misses her friends. She told me this when I stopped in to visit. As I entered the barn I heard her unmistakable nicker. She was inquiring if I’d brought a nugget or two of horse candy. And as it turns out, I did have a couple of treats in my pocket. No surprise there!

I stroked her neck and said as many soothing things as I could think of. I told her what was happening in the pasture and how Bud, Pepper, Amigo and Red missed her. Chickadee listened, though kept bringing me back to the topic of snacks. I read the feeding instructions on her stall. There was nothing written that said snacks were off limits, so I figured it was okay.  She snarfed down the two bites of candy and gave me a tender smile.

If you’ve had the pleasure of eating hospital food, you know how good a little snack tastes.

Something from the outside world.

Hopefully you have friends who would smuggle treats to you like I did for Chickadee. Hey, what are friends for if not to cheer you when you’re down and out?

P.S. Send your healing thoughts toward Chickadee and the barn. She needs to get back to the pasture and her pals.

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